PTBPR: Midseason 2015 MLB Power Rankings

Welcome to the Place to Be Nation Mid-Season MLB Power Rankings!

We’ve had quite the first half to the 2015 MLB season, with a ton of great performances (Bryce Harper*, Max Scherzer, Mike Trout, Joc Pederson, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, and many, many more), team surprises (Houston, for one), team disappointments (Boston, of course), and a few things that are going exactly like we thought they would (Philadelphia’s season).

*This man has the worst middle name(s) I’ve ever seen. It’s Bryce Aron Max Harper. Jesus…”Aron Max” sounds like a feminine hygiene product or something.

With that in mind, let’s check out how the teams look at the mid-way mark. In this installment, I’ll be writing a bit about the team’s season to date, and what to expect in terms of trade deadline thinking for each team, as well as overall projections in the second half.

Sound good? Let’s dig in!

All stats and records are thru games played as of July 12, 2015

The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in MLB and sit atop the Power Rankings.
The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in MLB and sit atop the Power Rankings.
Ranking Team, Record, Previous Ranking My Two Cents
1 St. Louis Cardinals, 56-33 (1) Despite a spate of injuries to key cogs, the Cardinals keep rolling along thanks to a lineup that gets on base (3rd in NL at .323) and a strong top four in the rotation, with Carlos Martinez (10-3, 2.52, 113 K in 107.1 innings) emerging as a dark-horse Cy Young candidate.Expect more of the same in the second half, as the Cards have the depth to make trades and withstand injuries. The only challenges this team faces in 2015 will be external threats, like the next team on this list, for example.
2 Pittsburgh Pirates, 53-35 (15) The Buccos closed out the first half with a pair of wild, come-from-behind, extra-inning wins over St. Louis. Those are the type of games that good teams win. They’ve got great pitching (2nd in NL with 2.86 ERA) backing an okay offense (8th with a .698 team OPS+). The defense (3.3 runs allowed per game) is second only to the Cardinals (3.0) in all of baseball.If the Pirates grab a decent bat to either: a) platoon or replace the dreadful Gregory Polanco (.237/.315/.338) in right field; b) add a 1B who can supplement the powerful Pedro Alvarez (12 HRs, .303 OBP, horrid defense); or c) add another arm to the monster that is A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, and Francisco Liriano, then Pittsburgh could be headed for its first World Series since 1979.
3 Kansas City Royals, 53-34 (4) Last year’s team is proving it was no fluke, with solid offense (.274/.324/.408) team line good for a .732 OPS+, fourth in the AL. The defense and the bullpen continue to excel, propping up the team’s lone weakness: its starting rotation.The Royals’ depth in the pen should help him to land a starter. While the Alex Gordon injury and Sal Perez’s insane workload could wear down the lineup, KC seems to have enough skill and luck to win the division crown and return to October.
4 Los Angeles Dodgers, 51-39 (2) Nearly a third of this team’s runs have come via the home run, which rookie phenom Pederson (20) and vet Adrian Gonzalez (18) leading the way. Unlike the Padres, this team had a very successful roster makeover, and if clearly the class of its division. That’s all before mentioning Zack Greinke’s Cy Young-worthy season to date: 8-2, 1.39, an ERA+ of 256! Dude looks like a man who’s playing for a big money deal … which he could get if he exercises his opt-out after the Series.The bullpen is still weak and the team’s relying on too many questions (Brett Anderson’s health, Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias’ inexperience) in the back of its rotation. Look for a deal for a starting pitcher to boost the Dodgers’ fortunes post-break.
5 Washington Nationals, 48-39 (8) Scherzer’s insanely good. First-half MVP Harper’s insanely good. But injuries and ineffectiveness have stalled this potential juggernaut.What the Nats need in the second half is continued good showings from Harper and Scherzer. That alone should get them into the playoffs. Rebounds and/or health from the supporting cast is what they need to go beyond the first round.
6 Los Angeles Angels, 48-40 (11) The front office turmoil suggests that everything runs through Mike Scioscia in Angel Land. Trout is the best player in the game, of course, but a resurgence by Albert Pujols (who finally seems healthy), a decent bullpen, plus the fact that Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago are both pitching well in the rotation (to cover for the poor seasons from Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker) have the Halos just in front of the falling Astros.
7 New York Yankees, 48-40 (3) They’ve gone 15-15 over their past 30 games, but the Bronx Bombers are still leading the AL East by 3.5 games. They’ve gotten great offense from their aging core and the bullpen has been fantastic.
The big questions loom, though: Can the rotation hold together? Can the bullpen stay this good? Will age catch up to the offense? And what of that god-awful middle infield?
Look for the Yanks to make minor roster tweaks between now the end of July. Maybe a new SS, another arm for the ‘pen. With the extreme parity in the East (and the AL in general), New York is about as well-equipped as any other team to win this division.
8 Houston Astros, 49-42 (7) The ‘Stros are starting to crash, as they’ve started July on a 3-8 slide. The team has a bonafide ace in Dallas Keuchel (11-4, 2.23) and rookie Lance McCullers (4-3, 2.52) looks legit too, but the team still needs something to boost the lineup, particularly after losing George Springer to the DL.
The slow-pitch softball offense (.240/.306/.417) is pretty bad in one-run games (12-13) and it’s going to be tough to sustain things with a lack of quality depth behind Keuchel in the rotation.
Houston still has the chips in play for a frontline arm and now seems like a good time to make a play. If the Astros snag a top-shelf arm, and maybe a solid bench bat to replace Springer, things should be fine in Houston. If not, we’re in for one hell of bumpy landing.
9 Minnesota Twins, 49-40 (12) No one seems to know how the Twins are still doing this, but the offense seems to be just good enough (and lucky enough) to be carrying a blah pitching staff. The defense is good, too, which helps.
Brian Dozier is the team MVP, and although top prospect Byron Buxton (injured; .189/.231/.270) hasn’t helped much yet, slugging youngster Miguel Sano (.378/.489/.649) is off to a great start.
10 Chicago Cubs, 47-40 (9) The Cubbies are playing just above expectations right now (a Pythagorean projection of 45-42 based on runs scored & allowed). They went into the break with the second NL wild card berth, beating out the Mets by one game.
The offense has been alright, getting major boosts from star Anthony Rizzo and star-in-the-making Bryant. However, if either of them slump in the second half, it could get ugly.
Jake Arrieta (10-5, 2.66) has been pitching like the ace Jon Lester (4-8, 3.59) was signed to be. The pitching’s been fine at Wrigley, but another arm or two would not hurt. Same can be said for an outfield bat.
11 San Francisco Giants, 46-43 (13) The Giants’ top six players by bWAR consist of the entire infield plus Madison Bumgarner. That’s pretty much how the defending champs are getting it down.
If Hunter Pence and Matt Cain can rebound in the second half, and the surprising seasons of the injured Nori Aoki and Matt Duffy continue, then the G-Men will remain within hailing distance of a playoff spot. Any more injuries, or regression from the infield, and this team is sunk.
Look for the Giants to shop around for a pitcher, but probably settle for landing some outfield depth instead.
12 Tampa Bay Rays, 46-45 (10) The offense stinks — 10th or worse in the AL for 11 categories — but the defense is really helping out an amazing — third or better in six AL categories — pitching staff.
Matt Moore (7.07 ERA) has been garbage since his return from Tommy John surgery, but Chris Archer (9-6, 2.74) has been exceptional. The team desperately needs offense, but so do most other teams. Tampa probably stands pat and hopes that Moore rights his ship and Drew Smyly comes back strong.
13 New York Mets, 47-42 (5) Much like the Rays, New York is dreadful at the plate (.233/.298/.363 team line) with zero power outside of Lucas Duda’s 12 home runs and Wilmer Flores’ 10 bombs (WTF?).
The pitching has been AMAZIN! especially Jacob deGrom (2.14 ERA), while Matt Harvey (3.07) and Noah Syndergaard (3.11) have not disappointed.That being said, this is the Mets and they have already managed to f— things up with another gem of a pitcher, allowing Steven Matz to toss two excellent starts before landing on the DL with a lat injury that the team knew about after his debut.
This team is going nowhere without multiple hitters, but they won’t spend money to bring in any bad contracts; nor will they part with their wealth of pitching to do so.
The best hope here is moving some of the older arms for a couple mid-level bats.
14 Toronto Blue Jays, 45-46 (17) Third baseman Josh Donaldson is the first-half AL MVP with his stellar .293/.351/.532 line to go with 21 homers and crazy-good defense at the hot corner.
With this offense, the Jays are underperforming their expected record of 53-38, so if the offense sticks and everyone stays healthy (not easy for this bunch), look for the first Toronto October run since 1993.
The team needs pitching, and they have the depth to make more than one deal. One floated idea* had them getting both Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman from Cincinnati. GM Alex Anthopoulos has pulled off big, complicated deals before, so don’t discount him on anything.
*Source: Armchair GMs of the Internet. A damn good idea, though, despite the source.
15 Baltimore Orioles, 44-44 (23) Manny Machado (144 OPS+) has been great. Adam Jones (124 OPS+) has been great. Jimmy “Who the F is that?” Paredes (122 OPS+) has been great. Chris Davis (116 OPS+) has been great.
The rest of the offense has been bad, though, which is part of why the O’s are stuck at .500.
Another reason? Because Chris Tillman (5.40 ERA) and Bud Norris (6.86 ERA) have sucked in the rotation.
The Birds need Tillman and/or Norris to right themselves, just as much as the team needs to get another bat in the OF, or to replace the inevitable regression of Parades at DH.
16 Detroit Tigers, 44-44 (6) Losing Miguel Cabrera to injury is a devastating blow to the team’s slim playoff hopes. The rest of lineup isn’t bad, but it’s a bunch of supporting players without a lead.
The pitching is awful outside of David Price (9-2, 2.38 ERA) and GM Dave Dombrowski should sell while he can. Once the season ends and potential trade chips like Price, Alfredo Simon, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, and Yoenis Cespedes are gone, they’re gone.
Bottom line is: You can’t trade chips that you don’t have. Right now, the Tigers have some chips and with a barren farm system and several bad contracts looking worse by the day, now is the time to cash in and start the rebuild.*
*It probably won’t happen; Owner Mike Illitch (age 85) wants a World Series before he’s gone; and Dombrowski has always been better at building contenders than at rebuilding them.
17 Texas Rangers, 42-46 (21) The Rangers have had their moments, but overall the team’s playing to its potential right now. They’re crap against teams at or under .500 with a 19-29 mark. They’re not good at home (!) at 16-26, and have gone an AL-worst 5-15 over their last 20 games.
Prince Fielder’s probably the AL Comeback Player of the Year (well, him or A-Rod) at this point, as the big guy is at .339/.403/.521 on the year. The rest of the lineup is largely awful though. The pitching, outside of newcomer Yovani Gallardo’s sparkling 2.62 ERA, hasn’t been good enough to overcome the weak hitting and garbage defense (14th in AL with a .979 fielding percentage; tied for 11th in DER at .690).
Best thing they can do is keep trying to trade Elvis Andrus, hope Shin Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton either get healthy or retire, and punt on pitching until Yu Darvish returns in 2016.
18 Cleveland Indians, 42-46 (26) A stunning array of starting pitchers (9.3 K/9 as a staff is tops in the AL) is being wasted by a porous defense.
The Tribe has to hope that rookies SS Francisco Lindor and 3B Giovanny Urshela stabilize the infield defense while hitting enough to do the same with the bottom of the lineup.
First-half team MVP Jason Kipnis (.323/.401/.487) is back to form, but he cannot carry the offense alone.
This team seems poised for a run at some point, just on the strength of the rotation alone. A sleeper among sleeper in this parity-fueled craziness.
19 Arizona Diamondbacks, 42-45 (27) If not for Harper’s season for the Nats, Paul Goldschmidt would be well in line to become the D-Backs’ first-ever MVP winner. Goldy and a pretty decent outfield have Arizona right at .500.
It’ll be a miracle if they keep it up, though, as their pitching staff (13th in NL at 4.22 ERA) is pretty bad. Arizona is one of the few teams that will definitely be a seller over the next few weeks.
20 Oakland Athletics, 41-50 (24) We can never, ever count out a Billy Beane team. Oakland’s been hit by some tough luck this season, underperforming their Pythagorean record by 9 games thus far (actually 41-50, should be 50-41).
The A’s are super-bad in one-run games, which further supports the “unlucky” idea, so who knows if Beane will buy or sell this year.
Best guess is he makes a couple moves in both directions and hopes that the team has a second half that compares to its first half from 2014.
21 Atlanta Braves, 42-47 (19) A refreshingly great interview from GM John Hart proved what many already knew: the Braves are not planning on contention until that shiny new park is ready.
The main problem with the Atlanta offense is a severe lack of power (12th in the NL with a .368 SLG mark). With 1B Freddie Freeman out, that problem only grows.
The team will be shopping everyone not named Freddie (Freeman) and Andrelton (Simmons) and Shelby (Miller). There are not a lot of Braves on this team that will be part of the next Atlanta contender.
22 Chicago White Sox, 41-45 (25) To this point, the only offseason signing that has worked out is closer David Robertson (2.45 ERA, 19 saves). But one can easily argue his contract was the least-necessary, as top-flight closers on sucky teams are a luxury, not a need.
No one’s hitting on the South Side, and trade pickup Jeff Samardzija seems to have jumped himself* with a 4.02 ERA and other pedestrian numbers (9.3 H/9; 1.22 WHIP). Only Cy Young candidate Chris Sale (8-4, 2.72, 157 K) is worth watching on this trainwreck.
*See, because his nickname’s “The Shark”. Get it? …I’ll show myself out.
23 Seattle Mariners, 41-48 (16) Back in March, when the M’s were the trendy pick to win their division (and more), I think it was a case of every pundit and expert anticipating career bests from the entire lineup AND the entire pitching staff.
Despite that, there’s no reason the team should be THIS awful. It seems unlikely they’ll sell this early into the Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz contracts, but they have to be considering a few departures, right?
24 Boston Red Sox, 42-47 (22) Young dudes Mookie Betts (.277/.328/.464) and Xander Bogaerts (.304/.338/.411) look like building blocks for the next Sox contender. Offseason busts Pablo Sandoval (.265/.307/.384) and Hanley Ramirez (.274/.320/.497) do not.
Crazy stat: despite leading the team with 19 home runs, Ramirez is putting up a bWAR of 0.0 for the Sox. Virtually all of his offensive contributions have been wiped out by his Don’t-Look-Marion defense in left field.
25 Cincinnati Reds, 39-47 (18) Todd Frazier’s a monster (25 HR) and Joey Votto is hitting like his old self again (.277/.392/.484), but the rest of the lineup is pretty bad (11th in NL with a .247 average).
The defense isn’t bad (5th in MLB with a .704 DER) but not much can help the awful pitching and overall lack of good ballplayers on this team.
The Reds need a rebuild and they’re hoping to kickstart that by dealing ace Cueto. Other potential pieces include OF Jay Bruce, Chapman, and SP Mike Leake. But, to really go for a full rebuild, the team needs to consider moving Frazier and Votto too.
26 San Diego Padres, 41-49 (14) GM A.J. Preller went big in the offseason, taking a “fantasy baseball” approach to team building.
The results have been lackluster to be kind, having cost manager Bud Black his job. New guy Pat Murphy has not fared any better at 9-15 so far. So this is clearly all on Preller and the team he’s assembled, right?
If it were New York or L.A., he’d probably already be fired. Woof.
27 Miami Marlins, 38-51 (20) Losing ML HR leader Giancarlo Stanton to the DL was the latest misstep in the Marlins’ cavalcade of misadventure this year. It’s a shame young talent like recently returned ace Jose Fernandez and Stanton, MLB’s version of Brock Lesnar, have to toil in such the mess that is Jeffrey Loria’s playground.
The team’s going nowhere (again), so they will look to move what they can, including pitchers Dan Haren, Mat Latos, and possibly a bat or two.
28 Colorado Rockies, 39-49 (30) Like their 1993 expansion brethren in Miami, the Rockies will never win.
The only difference is that the Marlins won’t win because of who owns them, something fixable, while the Rockies won’t win because of where they play. Something unfixable.
It’s a shame that the Rox have so many truly talented hitters (Nolan Arenado may be the best 3B in baseball; Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson*, and Carlos Gonzalez* make a dynamic outfield; and SS Troy Tulowitzki* is all-around great.) but it will be forever spoiled by the team’s inability to get any success on the mound.*When healthy.
Every SP with 10 or more starts for the Rockies this year has an ERA above 4.30.
They’ll probably move closer John Axford and maybe a bat, or a reliever, but nothing will change. This year, or any year until the team no longer calls Colorado home.
29 Milwaukee Brewers, 38-52 (28) In the 2015 NL Central, the Cardinals are a BMW; the Pirates are a Lexus; the Cubs a Chrysler; the Reds a Toyota; and the Brewers a wheelbarrow that always leans to the left and gives you splinters.
Pity Bob Uecker, perhaps the finest play-by-play voice this side of Vin Scully.
This team smells like barf and they should move whatever they can to rebuild. There’s little long-term promise here. Trade Francisco Rodriguez, Adam Lind, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and yes, even Jonathan Lucroy.
30 Philadelphia Phillies, 29-62 (29) Manager Ryne Sandberg lasted longer than he probably should have; replacement Pete Mackanin will have ulcers before the year’s out.
GM Ruben Amaro is universally ridiculed for what this franchise has become under his watch, and he should be.
It’s an old, slow, bloated club with no redeeming talent outside of 3B Maikel Franco, SP Cole Hamels, and Closer/Hillbilly Johnny Paps.
The Phillies have started eight pitchers at least five times this year. Six of them have ERAs over 6.00 on the season.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter Citizens Bank Park.

Just for kicks, I’d like to add a quick rundown of my midseason major awards:

American League MVP:

Mike Trout, Angels. He’s very, very good. He’s also playing a premium position very well for a contender. He checks all the boxes.

Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays. Getting out of Oakland and into a better hitting environment turned him into an elite player. He could beat out Trout by year’s end if the Jays make a run.

Manny Machado, Orioles. Jason Kipnis is having just as good of a season with the bat, but when you add in Machado’ stellar defense at 3B, it nudges him ahead. (Just barely.)

National League MVP:

Bryce Harper, Nationals. People having been saying he’d win it for years and he’s finally delivering. It sounds so weird to say that, then thinking that he’s only 22 years old.

Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks. He’s good enough to keep this race interesting all season, and if the injury bug hits Harper, Goldy could take home the, um, gold.

Zack Greinke, Dodgers. He’s keeping the Dodgers afloat while Kershaw posts (for him, anyway) some just okay numbers, and the rest of the rotation is help together with glue, prayers, duct tape, and chewing gum. He’s a legit challenger for Bob Gibson’s single-season ERA record (1.12) set in 1968.

American League Cy Young:

Dallas Keuchel, Astros. He is among the top five in the AL for bWAR, ERA, Wins, WHIP, H/9, IP, and shutouts, while seventh in strikeouts. He’s been tremendous for Houston so far.

Sonny Gray, A’s. Really, you go with Gray and not hear any argument. He has been just as good as Kuechel, just in fewer innings and with fewer strikeouts.

David Price, Tigers. I could throw a few other names in here, but I’ll go with my hometown team’s lone shining light on the mound. He’s fourth in the AL in ERA at 2.38 and sixth in strikeouts with 115.

National League Cy Young:

Max Scherzer, Nationals. He’s been as good on the mound for Washington as Harper’s been at the plate. He trails only Greinke in the NL for bWAR (4.7 to Zack’s 5.5, which is why I’ve got Greinke 3rd in my NL MVP list above) and has a ridiculous WHIP of 0.78 in a league-best 132 innings. He’s so crazy good.

Greinke, Dodgers. He’s posted 5.5 bWAR, has an ERA (1.39) that is 0.72 better than second-place, and is riding a scoreless innings streak of 35 ⅔ innings, the longest in MLB since Kershaw ran up 41 ⅔ blank frames last year.

Carlos Martinez, Cardinals. I almost left him off because I dropped him from my fantasy team back in early May, but I’m not about sour grapes and bad roster moves here. Martinez (10-3, 2.52 ERA, 113 Ks, 3.0 bWAR) has been very, very good all-around. Like I said with Gray and Price in the AL, there are a lot of other worthy candidates that could go here too, but I’ll give Martinez some extra credit for his team’s dominance as a tie-breaker, I guess.

American League Rookie of the Year:

Carlos Correa, Astros. He’s only played in 32 games, about half of most AL freshman, but he’s already launched seven home runs, stolen five bases, and is third among rookies with an OPS of .820. Not to mention his strong defense and overall 1.6 bWAR already.

Devon Travis, Blue Jays. A great start to his season was cut short due to injury, but the former 13th-round draft pick has been solid all year for the Jays, hitting .304/.353/.492.

Lance McCullers, Astros. With a 2.52 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 64 ⅓ innings, he looks like a great No. 2 starter behind Kuechel. However, the ‘Stros will limit his innings later in the year, meaning he will have to be exceptional to climb this list.

National League Rookie of the Year:

Joc Pederson, Dodgers. The kid isn’t hitting for average (.230) but he’s getting on base (.364) and clobbering the ball (20 home runs, .487 slugging). Add in top-shelf defense in center field and this one’s an easy call.

Kris Bryant, Cubs. The fact that Pederson’s an “easy call” is in no way a slight on Bryant, but more of a reflection of their placement on the defensive spectrum. Bryant has been great, mashing 12 home runs while batting .269/.376/.472.

Chris Heston, Giants. I want to go with the Phillies’ Franco or Noah Syndergaard of the Mets here, but Heston’s no-hitter, along with his edge in innings pitched give him the spot.

The next Power Rankings installment will be after the July 31 trade deadline, where we’ll look at who went where, and the ramifications of each move.

Until then, thanks for reading, Place to Be Nation!